- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Crossway; 1 edition (November 30, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1581349696
- ISBN-13: 978-1581349696
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 41 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #701,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being Paperback – November 30, 2012
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“C. S. Lewis wrote that friendship is born when one man says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . . ‘ Many pastors will find a new friend in this remarkable book. What makes this book both approachable and powerful is its honesty—that rare treasure we pastors are sometimes afraid to make our own. Zack Eswine gives us a front row seat to his heart. In seeing him, we see ourselves. But far better, we also see Jesus in his all-sufficiency for us. To everyone who wants to serve the Lord with a heart set free from pretense, I commend Sensing Jesus.”
—Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Lead Pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee
“This is one of the finest books on being a pastor written in this generation. I plan to use Sensing Jesus as required read for our pastoral theology students here at Covenant Seminary. The book is heart-wrenchingly honest about Zack’s own hopes and dreams and about the challenges of dealing with the praise that is heaped on a gifted young communicator of God’s Word. It is this rare honesty that makes the book a must read for anyone called to a life of ministry. Along with this painful and necessary openness, Zack has written not only with a practical helpfulness but also with a kindness of spirit about the follies, sins, and troubles that anyone engaged in serving others is constantly encountering. His careful exposition of Scripture is interwoven with unforgettable stories that bind the points he makes to the hearts of his readers. This will be an outstanding addition to the library of every pastor and teacher, indeed of anyone committed to ministry.”
—Jerram Barrs, Resident Scholar of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary; author, Freedom and Discipleship and The Heart of Prayer
“This book is simultaneously deeply distressing and profoundly comforting. The rhythmic interchange between these two seemingly opposite impacts surprisingly convinced me that this is one of the most helpful books on pastoring that I have read since my ordination in 1978. Ruthless self-address and unvarnished vulnerability are here wed to searching exegesis and an obvious purposed submission to the text of Holy Scripture. . The reader of this work will likely find remaining neutral and numb to their own mediocrity a difficult task!”
—Joseph V. Novenson, Pastor, Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
“After marinating in Sensing Jesus, I have two responses—one of lament and one of joy. Where was this book when I was stuck in the unrelenting grind of performance-based pastoring; the spiritual schizophrenia of preaching the gospel of grace with a frozen heart; the lonely pedestal of a pulpit surrounded by thousands of people? But joy fills my heart as I realize what a great book I now have with which to mentor young pastors and preachers. Zack, thank you for stewarding your pain and God’s gospel.”
—Scotty Smith, Teacher in Residence, West End Community Church, Nashville, Tennessee
“In prose that is warmly authentic and deeply rooted in the wisdom of Scripture and a life well examined, Zack Eswine invites those who minister to pause and reflect. Eswine unfolds a lovely biblical vision of ministry that embraces the localities, limits, physicality, and margins of our finiteness that God deems good. Devotional, rich in insight, gentle in teaching, Sensing Jesus is also profoundly convicting in challenging us to embody what we profess to believe. This is not abstract pastoral theology; it is an understanding of ministry for all ministers, lay or professional, who find, perhaps to their surprise or disappointment, that they are human beings, body and soul. If you do ministry, please believe me: Sensing Jesus is must reading.”
—Denis Haack, Director, Ransom Fellowship; Visiting Instructor in practical theology, Covenant Seminary
About the Author
Zack Eswine (PhD, Regent University) is lead pastor at Riverside Church in Webster Groves, Missouri, enjoys writing about life and ministry in Jesus, and blogs at preachingbarefoot.wordpress.com. He is the author of Preaching to a Post-Everything World, which won the PreachingToday.com Preaching Book Award in 2009.
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Eswine describes the intoxicating effect of successful ministry and the propensity for pastors to fall for the timeless Adamic temptation to be "like God," within the very rank and file of serving Him. He shares, "...the stale waters of celebrity, consumerism, and immediate gratification had infiltrated my drinking water, and I did not realize it." The reality is that many in ministry are drinking from the same tainted fount and stand on platforms, cup in hand, encouraging their naïve but ambitious protégés to partake as well. Perhaps the line most frequently attributed to the late American preacher, Dwight L. Moody, is the famous quotation: "The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God's help, I aim to be that man." And yet, the potentially destructive consequences of taking such a challenge frequent the headlines of local and national media in shameful detail. In what begins as authentic ministry, the frequent exposure and proximity to the glory of God begins to tempt the ambassador to slip The King's ring of glory on for sizing, like Frodo placing the "ring of power, on his hobbit-sized finger. Glory thieves in the pulpit are running rampant these days like zombies on t-shirts. None can handle such glory. More importantly, our sovereign King has clearly stated, "I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another." (Isa. 42:8, emphasis mine).
Few in the course of professional ministry will ever be qualified to take a seat on the particular rocket-ride extended to Zack at such an early age, given his unusual giftedness and skill; however, there are universal occupational hazards common to all. In summary, the tendency to be god-like is an ongoing battle to those who dare to say, "Thus sayeth the Lord." Like an appointed steward of great wealth, we can unknowingly begin to behave as if we were the actual proprietor of these purely divine characteristics, known in theological circles as the omni's: Omniscience (all-knowing); Omnipotent (all-powerful); Omnipresent (all-present or present everywhere). The "omni's" belong exclusively to Him, He is God and we are not.
The recognition of these temptations is half the battle, much like a drug addict voicing his weakness to another as somewhat cathartic in the process of preventing further destructive consequences. Many are convinced that they are gifted to be in every hospital, home, or crisis situation on a global scale. Even this isn't sufficient. While present, the "competent" pastor must be a "know-it-all," having the right response and a full explanation of the circumstances at hand. If this isn't enough, he must be able to "fix-it-all," with full resolution of the particular issues involved, and bring about healing in the meantime. Indeed, many dare attempt to slip the stolen "ring on power" on and head down the crooked path toward Mount Doom. Eswine emphasizes the critical recollection of our earthly humanity in thwarting pastors from adopting such a faulty lifestyle. No matter how great our success in ministry, we remain lifelong apprentices, fully human and finite in our abilities. In the aftermath of great success followed by great sorrow, Zack says, "...if there is anything exceptional about me and about this ministry crowd of mine, it is that we are exceptionally broken." We are surrounded by the realities of this brokenness as we physically interact with the flesh and bones around us and put away the idea that we live in an abstract world of competing ideologies and academic prowess. We must be willing to admit our own frailties and courageously embrace the hurting masses as demonstrated in the life of Jesus as the Wounded Healer.
This book is highly recommended to all pastors and Christians serious about ongoing intrapersonal discipleship and behavior prerequisite to impacting the world as ambassadors for the King.
"But our problem goes beyond our need to say no to activities and the need, however pleasant and helpful, to find more time for tea in our day, for we can learn to say no and can positively lighten our schedules without addressing our desire to be like God and to be everywhere-for-all. In other words, we can remain self-centered, blurry-eyed, and God-numb with boundaries and a cup of tea in our hands just as much as we can without them." (pg. 84).
The second section, "Examining Our Mentoring" looks at how we have learned to pastor, and how "humanness" as a minister comes as we follow Jesus' example of ministry in physicality and sight. He also shows the ways that our fallenness distorts the physical and keeps us from seeing clearly. He also contrasts our desire, however well hidden, for celebrity in contrast with the ordinariness of life and ministry. One of the more convicting reminders I was struck by was the contrast being "knowing" a lot of doctrine and actually letting the truths of Scripture lead to maturity in the minister.
"...possession of doctrinal information does not equal spiritual growth. Jesus protests those of us who debate Scripture and lose sight of how our lives were meant to be reshaped by it in the first place (Matt. 23:16-22). Capability with information does not mean familiarity with maturity." (pg. 256).
The author's style is warm, humble and thoughtful. Zack Eswine in addition to being a pastor and former seminary professor, is also a poet and a musician, so there is a poetic feel to parts of the book, and yet it still has the weight of one who has studied the Scriptures for many years and understands the big picture of the Bible, but also knows how to apply the small details as well. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is considering the Gospel ministry as a vocation and to those who are already in the ministry. It is too easy for us to establish our style and our way of doing ministry and never take time to evaluate, to check the condition of our hearts, and to compare what we are doing with how Jesus loved and served those he ministered to. Sensing Jesus joins Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp as the two indispensable books on pastoral theology in the American Evangelical context. Take some time to read it, chew on it, savor it and apply it! I'm looking forward to seeing how the Lord can change my heart and patterns as a minister as I contemplate the lessons of this book.
This book was so freeing to me. If you're weighed-down by the difficulties and trials that come with ministry, with the feeling that you just can't do it all, with burnout, frustration, or weariness, this book is like a cup of cold water in a barren land. It is written in such a vulnerable way, informed by experience, and supported by Scripture. When reading it, I was reminded of the famous line from the movie, Shadowlands: "We read to know we are not alone." It's good to know that someone else has felt the way that I have felt, encountered similar struggles and doubts in ministry, and can provide Godly counsel to fellow-ministers.
May God bless you in your reading.